The Life of a Leaf
Publication Date 1 Jan 2012
OverviewIn its essence, science is a way of looking at and thinking about the world. In "The Life of a Leaf", Steven Vogel illuminates this approach, using the humble leaf as a model. Whether plant or person, every organism must contend with its immediate physical environment, a world that both limits what organisms can do and offers innumerable opportunities for evolving fascinating ways of challenging those limits. Here, Vogel explores through the example of the leaf the extraordinary designs that enable life to adapt to its physical world. In Vogel's account, the leaf serves as a biological everyman, an ordinary and ubiquitous living thing that nonetheless speaks volumes about our environment as well as its own. Thus in exploring the leaf's world, Vogel simultaneously explores our own-answering questions about how objects get much hotter than air when in sunlight and far cooler when beneath a clear night sky, how air movement matters even when we can't feel it, how objects such as trees avoid damage from storms, and how gases diffuse and bubbles form. He introduces us to ways leaves acquire the essential resources needed to grow and reproduce, resources not all that different from those needed by animals-humans included. In considering science on our personal scale, Vogel refers complex concepts to everyday observations in our immediate experiences. Though the ideas he presents here hold surprises, he makes the case that they're quite ordinary-so ordinary that, with the instructions provided, anyone can investigate how they work with everyday house-hold materials. Within these pages, he provides incredible food for thought and the tools for a new way of seeing the beauty and simplicity of the science of life.